Dressed in blue jeans, plaid shirts and cowboy boots, Actor Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, will take to the Kent Stage, 175 East Main Street, at 8 p.m. June 22.
"Kevin is an incredible performer," said longtime friend and bandmate, John Coinman. "He's an amazing person to watch on stage because even if you're out playing in front of 30,000 people, he can make the audience feel like they are really important to him, and they are. It's just a really good live rock 'n' roll band. We love playing together. Whenever we do play, we just really feel good about it."
Coinman said this band is unlike most actor bands.
"It's a really interesting thing with an actor band," Coinman said. "Before people get to know the band, they will come out of curiosity. Usually there's a three song rule. People will give you three songs to see whether they like you or not, particularly with someone who's an actor. People come out to hear us and they've never heard one song we've played, but we never lose people. This is a real band. We're not hired musicians. If the band doesn't make money, we don't and if it does, we do. We also write. Everything we play is original. We can play three sets back to back and never play a cover tune."
Their music is rock 'n' roll with a desert patina.
"Our music has been described as The Wallflowers fronted by John Mellencamp," Coinman said. "We have the story telling and the rock edge, like Mellencamp or Neil Young and we have a lot of desert influence."
For Coinman and the band, music has to come from the heart.
"If it doesn't really come from your heart then it's not going to be meaningful to you," Coinman said. "Even songs that are written primarily for another artist or songs that are written for a movie, if it doesn't really resonate with you then it's not going to be a very good song. Also for me, I really like telling stories kind of in the old folk traditions, but I also like pop music and new alternative music."
Coinman said the bands music is constantly evolving.
"We've been conscious of choosing songs that put us in a new direction," Coinman said. "For instance, we've had a record deal in Europe for quite a while now, so a number of our songs have become more European rock. As the band evolves and becomes tighter and plays together more, we can handle different kinds of music. It's a natural process for the writers to go, 'lets just try something different here or see what a song would sound like if we went in this direction rather than our usual direction.' Kevin is constantly pushing the envelope."
The band is currently working on a new CD.
"We're going to play a few of the new songs in Kent," Coinman said. "There's some really good rock songs like 'Stand Strong' and ''69 Cadillac' and then there's live in the studio songs and pop songs. There's this one song called, 'Love is Everywhere,' which is more of a finger picking song with a rock n roll ending."
The band got its start eight years ago when Costner's wife, Christine, encouraged him to reconnect musically with Coinman.
Coinman, an award-winning songwriter, grew up in Clayton, N.M. on the Kiowa Grasslands. His early influences range from Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison to Marty Robbins and The Turtles. He has recorded four solo CDs including two on Corazong Records, the premiere Americana label in Europe.
Over the years, Coinman has collaborated with many artists and writers including John Densmore of The Doors, Michael Blake, the writer of Dances With Wolves, Troy Olsen, Teddy Morgan, as well as Costner.
In the early '80s, Coinman moved to Los Angeles to start a band and peruse his acting career. There, he met bassist Blair Forward and they formed a band called Man Alive and recorded their first album together, First Born.
Coinman first met Costner in an acting workshop in a warehouse in Los Angeles. Costner is known for his roles in films such as "Field of Dreams" and "The Untouchables," among others. He appears in "Man of Steel" opening this week, as Jonathan Kent.
"We were making a movie together in 1983 called Stacy's Knights," Coinman siad. "I had a smaller part in it. I ended up on the cutting edge floor being a corpse. Two old friends of mine, Michael Blake and Jim Wilson were making the movie. They found Kevin on a street audition. They really liked him. He hadn't really done anything up to that point and I hadn't either."
Costner started coming out and listening to Coinman's band play live.
"We played a few times a week," Coinman said. "Kevin started listening to the band. He liked my songwriting and we became friends. He proposed building a band together and trying to make a record."
Costner, Coinman and Forward formed the nucleus of Costner's first band, Roving Boy. They recorded an album and a hit single in Japan in the late '80s.
"It went really quickly after that," Coinman said. "He and I worked together on Dances with Wolves. I was the musical supervisor. Then there wasn't any room for a band in his life at that point. He had a young family, three kids, a wife and a busy acting career, so it was impossible to keep a band going, but we kept in touch. We would get together occasionally and play and write and practice and in the meantime I just kept my own music career going."
John moved to Tucson, Arizona in the mid '90s and there he, drummer Larry Cobb and Forward began playing together. Guitarist and producer Teddy Morgan moved to Tucson a few years later. They began to write together and Morgan produced their next CD.
When Costner asked Coinman to form a new band, Morgan, Cobb and Forward were a natural fit.
"About eight years ago, Kevin called me up and asked me if I wanted to explore another band," Coinman said. "I told him I already had a band and they would be great for him. It always is a really difficult thing to make it as a musician and so it was really great because I admired Kevin. He was starting to get some good acting roles at that point and we just hit it off really well musically. He gave me a little more added incentive to keep writing and playing."
Coinman started to fly out to L.A. every month to practice and write with Costner.
"We started singing and writing and trying to formulate the band," Coinman said. "When the time was right, he was in Louisiana making Mr. Brooks, so I brought the band out to Louisiana and we started practicing. Everybody in the band really enjoyed the music and the personalities, and here we are today still writing and touring."
Coinman is looking forward to playing the Kent Stage for the first time.
"My mom went to school at Kent State and two of us are from Ohio," Coinman said. "I'm from Elyria and Blair is from Columbus, so we have roots there. Kent is kind of an iconic place in this country. It'a great town. I've been through a couple of times. We've never played there, but this will give us a chance to come and check it out."
Kevin Costner and Modern West will take the stage at 8 p.m. June 22 at the Kent Stage.
Tom Simpson, co-owner of the Kent Stage, said tickets are selling fast.
"It's almost a sold-out show," Simpson said. "It's not every day that you get to see Kevin Costner live. I think Kevin and his band are going to surprise people with how good they are."
Tickets range from $50 to $150.
For more information, call 330-677-5005 or visit thekentstage.com.